Tag Archives: Australian Open

Winners should be grinners. They’ve earned it.

12 Feb

To the winner goes the spoils.. we all look at the prize money, the trophy cabinet, the endorsements, the celebrity of playing wNovak and Mats Eurosport studioinning tennis (or any other sport or winning at business). There is a whole lot more that goes into the total package. Don’t fall for the “all sports people / entertainers are so overpaid” line. As a very small insight into the extra-curricular demands on a Grand Slam winner, Novak Djokovic was still in his match gear and had only stopped in the locker room for 90 seconds to embrace his entourage before being shunted out to seven TV studio and live interview sites (as pictured in the Eurosport live studio with Mats Wilander) – all prior to doing his mandatory press conference, including radio’s, one on ones and then compulsory drug testing… Over 2 hours later he made it back to the locker room. And his was a short version of what happens when Roger Federer, for example wins, more requests, answers in 3 languages… These guys deserve their paycheck. And the current crop at the top are all really decent human beings. Credit to them. Role models one and all.  The PRO

 

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Kokko-pops. Here comes the Special K.

27 Feb

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Brisbane, 2014. GETTY IMAGES

Thanasi Kokkinakis: an eye on the future.

You would be excused for thinking young Aussie tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis has come from nowhere. However, like all teen “sensations” there is a steady back catalogue of blood, sweat and tears. Kokkinakis began playing tennis at the age of 8 – in this day of early learning and toddler motor skills programs that seems like a late start. Kokk was hooked by watching clips of Marat Safin, and later Gael Monfils.

Watch Kokkinakis play today and you can see the entertainer emerging in his game too. Big forehand, big serve, big ear-ring. He does look like he was born for the centre court. He’s Greek, he’s flashy – starting to sound familiar. Yep, it sounds like a throw back to that other big serving Greek / Aussie of reality TV fame – the Scud, Mark Philippoussis. While the Scud was ultimately, some would argue a huge talent, but an under achiever, perhaps Kokkinakis is poised to deliver on his promise.

For a start he has the advantage of a rock solid foundation – his family. Dad Trevor came to Australia as a 5year old – and grew up in the tough working class inner west Adelaide suburbs. His is a story of hard work, struggles and ultimate success; owning and operating his own engineering firm. Kokk’s siblings (he is the youngest) all have university degrees, and father Trevor insists Thanasi will finish school, hopefully this year. Grounded – that’s Trevor.

He is coached by Todd Langman. Langman himself is a rookie at this level – he gave up a promising baseball career to work more with Kokkinakis, and that decision is paying off. I was lucky enough to see the two of them in action at this year’s Australian Open in my media role, and you wouldn’t see a more cohesive coach / player partnership. Langman and Kokkinakis have been together 10 years, since Thanasi first struck a tennis ball. In Langman’s words – “it is a dream to coach someone with Thanasi’s ability”. There is no ego with Langman, he is like a sponge, learning on the job, questioning, seeking advice – he is well on his way and will be  a first rate tour coach. He even had the cheek to line up a 10 day training block in Mallorca with someone’s Uncle Toni. Grounded – that’s Todd Langman.

Believe it or not Kokkinakis was playing his first overseas events in 2010 – in the European 14 and under tour. He broke through with a few wins, got the bug and has not looked back since. A runner-up in the 2013 Australian Open junior final, albeit played with a stress fracture in his back, sealed his pedigree. This year he has beaten 4 top 100 players and already cut his ATP ranking  from over 1600+ just 13 months ago to inside 400. It’s no surprise to those who have seen his work ethic – after a 1st round loss last week at the ATP 500 in Marseille, Kokkinakis tweeted “gotta get better, # at the practice court!”  Hard working Trevor would be proud. Like father, like son.

The PRO

Paul Arber. RIP

12 Dec

   Aussie tennis coach Paul Arber’s body was pulled from the Waikato river in Hamilton, New Zealand this morning.

There’s a lot of heavy hearts in the tennis community today. Paul Arber (Arbs) is / was /and always will be a ROCK. Solid, dependable, unmovable, reliable. As a junior he would stubbornly stick to his guns, no matter what Richo or I would try to get him to change.

He had the capacity to always do it “his way” – but to always get the job done. Arbs was determined to succeed, driven, he was a great scrapper on court. Knew how to construct points, knew the value of smart choices. Knew the value of looking after himself.

Paul was a valued member of my coaching team at Australian Open Tennis and such an asset to the Academy and State programs.
I used to enjoy looking over at Paul’s court and without fail he was playing “ammunition” or some other form of points with the kids – despite the briefing at the coaches meeting to stick to the theme… consequently the kids loved him. We all did.

They’ll be playing “ammo” upstairs now.

Rest In Peace Arbs.

JP

Wow-rinka. Stan you are the man

4 Jun

Defeated

Richard Gasquet – dreams of a French Open 1/4 final bite the Roland Garros dust.

In one of those epic 4 and a half hour 5 set contests, Swiss #2 and French Open 9th seed, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated hometown hero, 7th seed Richard Gasquet 6/7 4/6 6/4 7/5 8/6. Wawrinka, often described by legendary tennis critic John McEnroe as “having the best one-handed backhand in the game” was looking down the barrel as Richard Gasquet, with arguably as sweet a backhand swing and a partisan Parisian crowd egging him on, almost stole the match in straight sets.

Wawrinka is having a watershed year and is now back to his previous career high ranking of ATP #9. The catalyst for this could well have been the heartbreaking 5 hour “war” with Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open – where Stan the Man won everything but the match, going down 12-10 in a gruelling 5th set. Gone are the days of Wawrinka surrendering meekly, and after treatment for a thigh strain he steadied to take the next 2 sets and the ascendency into the 5th. Gasquet would be the one on the mat as trainers tried to pump some life back into the Frenchman’s legs. Wawrinka prevailed 8-6 in the deciding set.

And what looms next for Stan the Man – a 1/4 final against Raphael Nadal – who must have been relishing the spectacle of his potential next opponent locked in a physically taxing “epic” – and Rafa also safe in the knowledge of a 19 and 0 win-loss aggregate in his favour against the pair of them.

The PRO

US women. Out of the blue..

2 Jun

Serena Williams came into the final with a 12-0 clay court record on the year, losing just one set.

While US women’s tennis has, on the surface, looked healthy as far back as one cares to think, it has been riding on the dominance of Serena Williams. With a little help from sister Venus over the past 11 years, the “sisters” have amassed 23 Grand slam singles titles between them, Serena with an astounding tour win-loss % of .839 and Venus .800. They have battled every challenger: from Russia, Czech Republic, France, Serbia, China and even Belgium and Denmark have thrown up contenders. All the time they must have been looking in the rear view mirror wondering when, or even if, the cavalry would arrive. Where are the next line of US female players?

Perhaps they can breathe a little easier, after a breakthrough semi-final result for Sloane Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open, including a win over Serena herself. Stephens today joined Serena, Bettina Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton in the 4th round of the French Open. Hampton’s was a solid straight set win over WTA#7 Petra Kvitova. Following closely on their heels are improved WTA tour players Melanie Oudin, Christina McHale and Lauren Davis – all under 23 years of age.

And next in line. The prodigious junior talent, lefty, Taylor Townsend. Townsend just 17, won the 2012 Australian Open Junior Girls Singles and is the first US girl to hold the year end world #ITF junior ranking since 1982.

Taylor Townsend tennis.jpg

Taylor Townsend unleashes a forehand

While Serena is in no hurry to abdicate the throne it appears there are now likely candidates pressing their claims. Watch out for Taylor Townsend’s transition through to the senior tour. Perhaps the real question to ask of US tennis: where are the American men?

The PRO

Rest just the tonic for Tomic

11 Oct

Tomic still welcome in Sydney

Aussie young gun Bernard Tomic has admitted his guns are out of firepower as his “breakout” year on the ATP tour came to a grinding halt in China, at the Shanghai Masters event. Tomic looked to be heading for the Top 20 as he bamboozled players with his unique talent, peaking at #27 in June. Since then it has been 9 out of 12 first round losses as his ranking slides, and will bottom out below 50 in the next ranking update.

Following his 6-4, 6-0 loss to German Florian Mayer, Tomic confessed to only giving “roughly 85%” in his match. In doing so he opens himself up to repeats of the criticism from John McEnroe, Pat Rafter, Paul McNamee and host of tennis experts. Labelled a “disgrace” by Rafter, who “was obviously tanking” by McEnroe following an insipid performance at the US Open. Tomic has done himself no favours by dropping another match 6-0 in the closing set, and to make it worse concede in his presser that “it has been a long year” and also that “the mental skill is one of my biggest problems”. Honest – yes, smart – no.

We keep being reminded that Tomic is only 19 – but 19 only for another week. His lack of maturity is clearly evident.  “it’s scary how much I have improved” – “it will be very soon that I start beating the top 4” – quotes from this years Australian Open. And in China he attributes his slide down the rankings to a poorly planned schedule, that has “cost me a lot of matches I should have won”.

Tomic has pulled out of the Swedish Open next week and is unlikely to play the Swiss Indoor the following week. It could be time to rest, recover and re-invent himself as an Aussie battler. He has plenty of time.

The PRO 

What a game!

14 Jun

With Wimbledon just around the corner, have a look at this clip featuring some extraordinary rallies all in the one game between Michael Llodra and Andy Murray from the 2012 Australian Open. This should get you in the mood for some more tennis. Enjoy.

The PRO